Website aims to help people avoid places with bed bugs

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - We've all heard about bed bugs. They're the scourge of this region. It's gotten so bad, people are getting desperate.

There's not a lot left in the apartment Shawnte Caskey shares with her boyfriend. They had to throw out most of their belongings after a bed bug infestation.

"One night we go to bed and he sees this little black area on her bed and he goes to check it and it's just bedbugs. So we take all of our blankets off, then we lift up the bed. They were everywhere," Shawnte said.

It was the beginning of a nightmare she documented with some photos on her digital camera.

"We've been washing our blankets every week with hot water and putting it on the highest heat that we can, and we have had to keep our clothing in bags the whole time," said Shawnte.

But what if there was a place where you could find out where the bedbugs are? Turns out there is one. It's right here on the internet.

Welcome to It's a website where people log on, then post maps and addresses where they know bed bugs have taken over.

Most of the posts include personal horror stories. Hotels, apartments, and public buildings are all part of this site. And there are a number of street addresses and stories about bed bugs found in the Cincinnati area.

"I went to a hotel over the weekend and I made sure I checked through everything because, well, I don't want to get it again," Shawnte Caskey said.

A site like this is popular, especially around the Queen City because people do not want to risk getting infested, or in the case of the Caskeys, re-infested.

Over the last few years, bedbugs have made their home right here in the tri-state. Local agencies don't have exact stats, but the National Pest Management Association says bed bug cases have increased nationwide 80 percent since 2000.

67 percent of pest management companies told the association they have gotten calls to treat motels and hotels, and 76 percent of pest management companies nationwide say bedbugs are the most difficult to remove of all pests.

The infestation has driven the setup of a local bed bug task force, and caused panic in the hotel industry. These days its normal to see hotel operators doing all out searches for bed bugs in their midst. And health departments are coming down hard on places where they find the critters.

Pamela Walker-Bauer from the Norwood Health Department says, "If we verify that they do have in a complaint, we will follow up and make sure that they have a licensed pesticide applicator come in and treat the facility."

But just how credible is a site like

Pamela Walker-Bauer says that it would be easy to manipulate the facts on the site.

"I don't put much credibility into a site like that because it's not from somebody like the CDC, the Centers for Disease Control or the Ohio Department of Health."

Elaine Zeinner of the Automotive Association of America agrees that it would be easy to manipulate the facts on the site.

Zeinner says AAA is keeping track of the bed bug reports too, and that a hotel could lose its AAA rating if it doesn't comply with pest control.

"Hotels don't want to have bed bugs any more than travelers want to see them in their hotel room so they are generally very quick to fix the problem and get rid of them," says Zeinner.

Back at Shawnte's apartment it took four rounds of extermination before the bed bugs left. But she and her boyfriend are moving, and she'll be looking for a place that is bed bug free.

"I don't want to go through that again. I mean, that was complete torture," Shawnte says. Torture she hopes will only invade her life once.

AAA also has some recommendations about bed bugs that you can use even if you aren't traveling. First, check your mattresses and bed sheets on arrival. Second, put your luggage on a luggage rack instead of the floor. And third, wash everything in hot water when you come home.

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